(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)
I’ve been in the shower so long my fingers are wrinkled, but I’m too mad to turn off the water. Mixing with my hot tears, it swirls down the drain along with my supposedly happy life.
My stomach hurts as I sob, quiet moans punctuated with wails of anguish as the thought of each new consequence crosses my mind.
“What did I do?” I say over and over rocking back and forth trying anything to comfort myself. I have never felt so wretched, alone, and discarded.
I didn’t take my clothes off when I got in. I just needed to get clean. To cleanse myself of I don’t know what, Shame? Betrayal? None of this makes any sense, except that it’s not fair.
I glance towards the hall. The divorce papers that came earlier are now strewn on the hall floor. I didn’t get past the first page. I dropped them like they were covered with shit. They might as well be, because that’s how I feel, the victim of an ambush. A shitty heartless one.
A gust of cold water gets me moving. I stand up and turn off the tap. I am shaking from more than the cold—I must be in shock. I sit down on the toilet, a big soggy mess. I pull my shirt over my head and kick out of my sweatpants and underwear, tossing them towards the drain. So much for a peaceful day doing whatever I wanted or nothing at all. My stomach hurts like I’ve been sucker-punched, hollow with grief. I’m in the kind of pain that no amount of crying helps, like something horrible is inside me trying to claw its way out. It’s the way you feel when you’ve lost someone near and dear to your heart, someone you love. It’s the feeling of fear in the face of abandonment and treachery.
I leave my wet clothes seeping into the shower drain and stand up. I look at them, but nothing registers. They can sit there for days. I do not care. I walk toward the door and catch my image in the mirror. I check the mirror every day before leaving the house, but now I’m seeing myself differently, and not just because there’s water running down my body. Maybe I’m imaging it, I think as I give myself an honest appraisal.
I think I look fine, except for the red eyes and haunted look. I care about my appearance. Men still look at me at forty-five. I keep in shape and watch what I eat most of the time. It’s just not fair. In this fucked up world, only guys get to have a beer gut, a droopy ass, and a bald head. Men are measured by the size of their wallets and that’s it. A guy can be a complete dick and be downright ugly. If he’s got money, he can have what he wants. There are plenty of women out there who will do just about anything to a guy just to be near his money. Not only that, and they’ll step over anybody to get there. It seems like they’re more interested in successful married men. Is that what’s happening to me? Did some young bitch step over me to get to my husband and his income? A person whose sole purpose is to marry money, and to find someone to take care of them. Their focus is only on themselves, where they can shop and all the people, they can feel superior to, through no effort of their own, aside from giving fantastic blowjobs.
* * *
Two hours later, I’m on the sofa in our living room staring into space. I managed to make some coffee and poured some Bailey’s in it. I usually never drink in the morning, but apparently, things have changed. I am alone. Our big empty house doesn’t help. I feel like it’s going to swallow me up. I’ve got plenty of Baileys and my second drink is coffee-flavored booze. Fuck it anyway, who’s counting? I’m not planning to.
I will be fine as long as I stay off the phone, don’t text, email, or post crazy drunk shit on social media. Once it’s out there, you can’t delete it, it’s permanent, like a divorce. I’ve never felt this betrayed by anything or anyone before. It doesn’t seem possible or real, but it is. I need a couple of days to understand the full extent of the implications of the end of my marriage. My mind is swimming with all of the things that I will have to do and say. I’m not doing any talking or taking any actions until I am ready. The Summons includes a Notice that I have thirty days to respond under Georgia law. I’m going to respond long before that. Right now, my immediate plan is to hide out and think. I need to move my focus away from emotional reactions and begin to think rationally and clearly. One step at a time.
I look around. It seems like every room is crammed full. What about all the stuff? I assume Henry will send for his things. What a fuck. I’m not staying here, waiting for him to make up his mind about his precious golf clubs. They’re in the garage. Maybe I should donate them to the Goodwill. I suck at it, so I hate that fucking game.
I guess I get to sell the house and take care of all the crap we’ve accumulated over twenty years. Why did we need all these things? You don’t notice it piling up until you have to deal with it. If you’ve ever cleaned out a dead relative’s home, you get the picture. Every nook and cranny is stuffed with things no sane person would keep. That day has come for me. Screw it, I’ll just sell everything on Craig’s list and have the junk guys come and haul the rest. It’s lost all meaning for me. Ah shit, I can’t get rid of marital property because of the summons. The few things our sons have here, I’ll send them. I doubt a Judge would punish me for that.
Maybe I’ll just burn Henry’s shit, out in the yard and dance naked around it. That would get the neighbors talking and probably lead to a visit from the police. On second thought, it sounds like a little too much hassle, running away from the cops in my birthday suit.
Fun as that might be, though, I’m too practical to do it. They’re nice things and other people can use them and the charity that sells them can do some good with the proceeds. Besides, being destructive doesn’t seem like the right move just now, not when the last 22 years of my marriage have turned out to be wasted and hollow.
I’m huddled under a robe with a pile of tissues on my lap. I’ve gone from sad to mad and everything in between. Is this how it’s going to be? This sucks for me, but not for Henry. I bet he’s been looking forward to it for months, plotting and planning to screw me over. Now he gets what he wants and doesn’t give a damn about me. I hope he chokes on his own vomit.
I get off the couch with a groan. I still feel shaky and drained, but I’ll be able to keep my feet under me. One thing I know: I’ve cried enough for now. They say divorce is like losing a loved one with five stages of behavior that goes along with it. The first is denial. I’m past that. This shit is real. Second, comes anger. That’s coming on hard. I’ve been betrayed and abandoned. The next stage has to do with bargaining with yourself, blaming yourself for the divorce. I’ll jump right over that one. I didn’t do anything wrong. I refuse to accept fault. I could have had other lovers. Now I wish I had. I could have had an affair—I’m sure my husband did.
Though in a way, Henry seems too smart and methodical. He never seemed distant or complained. We had sex and he seemed to like it. Me too; no fake orgasms to get him off me. I know older women who were relieved when their husbands lost interest, especially the wives whose husbands rode them like rented mules. No foreplay, just rutting. That’s fun sometimes. But I’m sure after forty-odd years it wears on the woman.
Moping around just makes me feel shitty. I have to do something, even if it’s wrong. My grandpa used to say that, and his wisdom is good enough for me.
By Soren Petrek